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Where to Eat on Maui: Monkeypod Kitchen

Trying out new restaurants on Maui, for me, is always a challenge. There are old mom-and-pop favorites, like Sam Sato’s, where I try to stop each time I come home because I never want to see them go out of business. Then there are more recent favorites, like Star Noodle, where I’d only been once and longed to return. Throw in stops at farmers markets and of course, home cooked meals with family.

I’ve only got one stomach and one weekend! What’s a girl to do?

There are many places that have come and gone in the time since I moved from Maui to Oahu, 13 years ago. One newish restaurant I was curious to visit was Monkeypod Kitchen by Peter Merriman, one of the founding chefs of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement. We loved Merriman’s in Waimea, so when a friend suggested Monkeypod Kitchen for happy hour, it was quite an easy choice.


The atmosphere at Monkeypod Kitchen was quite lively. We did find ourselves shouting a bit, with tables close enough for eavesdropping and live music played throughout the restaurant and bar. But overall, I think it just contributes to the energy of the place, which I really enjoyed.


Happy hour pricing brings the excellent hand-crafted cocktails down to $8 – I had to order the “Makawao Avenue” given that we lived there for many years – bourbon, lemon, honey, angostura bitters, and ginger beer. We also tried the mai tai, which features the traditional recipe, with the addition of a honey-lilikoi foam which was quite tasty, but since I wasn’t feeling like rum, I went back to the Makawao Ave. They also have a great selection of beers on tap, including local breweries.


Our favorite appetizer was the pumpkin ravioli, lightly dressed with a brown butter-sage sauce and tossed with spinach and goat cheese. Non-seafood appetizers are half off during happy hour and at $6.50 for six pieces we came quite close to ordering a second of this dish.


Wood fired pizzas, like this Hamakua wild mushroom with truffle oil, are only $9 at happy hour. Personally I felt the cheese was a little too heavy – making it quite oily. But we’d also ordered a beet salad and a side of Parmesan-topped Brussels sprouts to balance everything out.

Given the heavy emphasis on locally sourced dishes at the Waimea restaurant, I was a tad disappointed that a lot of the menu isn’t as “local” as I would have expected – although I bet if we’d gone with fish it would have felt more “Merriman’s” to me. But everything was tasty, the service (especially at a casual/bar seating) was outstanding, and most importantly, I had great company. Thanks Bri! 🙂

Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman’s
10 Wailea Gateway Place, B201
Kihei, HI 96753
(808) 891-2322

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Where to Eat in Honolulu: Nanzan Giro Giro

IMG_0235Nanzan Giro Giro is one of those hidden gems in Honolulu that I never would have found on my own. I’d heard murmurs of the interesting contemporary kaiseki-style restaurant tucked away on Pensacola Street, and finally went to visit for the first time last November.

The kaiseki style of cuisine is truly a culinary art form. The set kaiseki menu is the only option at Nanzan Giro Giro, and the entire menu changes each month. You basically put your total trust in the restaurant, sit back, and let the show begin. For $50, seven courses are meticulously presented and prepared for you with beautiful ceramic serving dishes – created by the artist Nanzan. None of the dishes are large (maybe 3-4 bites for most) but I left feeling full, probably because you eat with your eyes first and the presentation is such a beautiful feast for your senses.

The March 2013 menu was titled the “Month of Growth” which feels appropriate, given that the word I picked for 2013 is GROW! A good friend decided to have her birthday dinner here so I was anxious to see how it compared to the menu I’d tried in November. My server mentioned that this month’s menu was more French-inspired than November, which to me was very heavy on traditional Japanese flavors. (The photo at the top was one of the courses last November.)

Course 1: Zensai

Picture 1 of 9

shiitake dashi-maki vinegared dish; wakame, fried tofu, cucumber maguro, shungiku miso with karashi and vinegar

Tips for your visit

  • Street parking on Pensacola or surrounding streets. I’ve gotten lucky both times but you may want to allow a few extra minutes to be sure you get parking.
  • There is a wine pairing option with dinner, which includes 4 wines (2oz each) to pair with your courses for $25. I usually opt to do wine by the glass or bottle instead and there are also sakes and beer available.
  • Dessert is an extra $8, and also rotates monthly, but always includes a tiny flavored macaron, a nod to their sister restaurant in Paris.

Nanzan Giro Giro

560 Pensacola Street
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 524-0141

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Where to Eat in Honolulu: The Whole Ox Deli

UPDATE 4/10/13: Wow, have there been big changes since I posted this! Bob McGee has now left Whole Ox and the new chef, Justin Yu, has some major changes in store. I guess we were one of the last to get the foie gras poutine! You can read more about it on Honolulu Magazine’s Biting Commentary.

UPDATE 9/21/13: The Whole Ox has officially shut its doors and Biting Commentary reports that Quinten Frye’s Cocina will be taking over. Great news, because I loved Cocina when they were popping up at Taste, around the corner! Read my review here.

It seems like just yesterday, I happened upon an Indiegogo campaign by local chef Bob McGee, hoping to crowdsource the funding for a deli meat smoker so that he could open the Whole Ox Deli in Kakaako, bringing locally made deli meats to Honolulu. But look at them now, coming up on their first anniversary, March 28.

Needless to say, Bob’s fans and the social media community rallied around the Whole Ox concept and funded that smoker and then some, building both momentum for the menu and a real sense of community in Kakaako. People come here for more than just the food – Pow Wow Hawaii has left some amazing murals all over Kakaako, and the monthly Eat the Street and Night Market block parties energize the area with huge crowds. Exciting times…

In the year they’ve been open, I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to the Whole Ox for lunch (just takeout) and I totally missed the breakfasts, which I’m super sad about! I finally made it in for dinner to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Arriving early, we were able to score a spot under the tree on the lanai and to chat with Bob about the year that’s past and the years ahead.

Here’s what we ordered:

Porchetta di Testa – fried pa’i’ai, pickled peppers, umeboshi ($12)

Foie Gras Poutine – fried red potatoes, foie gras gravy, foie gras torchon, crispy pork bits, tallegio cheese ($13)

NY Steak Special (off menu) – I forgot to look at the price! Oops.

The past few months have brought big changes to the concept of the restaurant (discontinuing breakfast but opening for dinner, and filling up the deli case with local butcher cuts) and also to the menu. Behind the scenes there have been changes as well, and this week they’ve brought on board a new Chef de Cuisine, so expect updates to the menu and refinement overall… It will be interesting to see where the new menu takes them, and they’ve definitely got a fan in me. I’ll be back!

See, I made my mark! Bob says if he moves to a new location, this beam – signed by friends of the Whole Ox ohana – is coming with them, even if the building falls down!

Tips for your visit:

  • Seating is first come, first served, and the lanai is considered prime seating (when it’s not raining) so get there early to snag a table.
  • BYOB, so feel free to bring along some booze to compliment your meal.
  • Street parking is available in the surrounding blocks.

The Whole Ox Deli
327 Keawe Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808) 699-6328